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Earthquakes: Nature's fury

Simply put, an earthquake is the shaking and trembling of the earth's surface, caused by the sudden release of stress within the earth's crust. But behind this rather colourless statement lies great devastation and sorrow. Few things have killed as many humans at the same time as have earthquakes. Definitely of all the destructive sides that nature displays from time to time, this one is her most bloodthirsty. And yet humans are almost helpless in the face of earthquakes. The chances of a major earthquake occurring in your area may be low, but even one devastating quake can set an area back by decades.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2004 11:13 IST
PTI

Simply put, an earthquake is the shaking and trembling of the earth's surface, caused by the sudden release of stress within the earth's crust. But behind this rather colourless statement lies great devastation and sorrow. Few things have killed as many humans at the same time as have earthquakes. Definitely of all the destructive sides that nature displays from time to time, this one is her most bloodthirsty.

And yet humans are almost helpless in the face of earthquakes. The chances of a major earthquake occurring in your area may be low, but even one devastating quake can set an area back by decades. An urgent need to undertake earthquake study was felt in the previous century, and nations like the US, USSR, China and Japan conducted extensive research in an effort to protect their citizens better. According to the Indian Government’s Department of Science and Technology, more than 650 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or more have taken place in India since 1890. Besides massive economic loss, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost as well.

Research in various disciplines has vastly increased our understanding of earthquakes, there is still no sure method of predicting an earthquake. And definitely there is no way we can prevent an earthquake from occurring. On the other hand, unrestrained ‘development’ has actually facilitated their occurrences.

Extensive worldwide research on the subject has yielded a fair amount of answers. They may not yet be foolproof, but they are still the best the best we have. And the more the awareness about quakes, perhaps the sooner we can arrive the best possible answers to tackle quakes.

Here we shall examine the way earthquakes operate, and how we can best protect ourselves from their sudden angry outbursts.

First Published: Jan 30, 2003 13:07 IST